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Kara Wai and Carlos Chan in Happiness (category IIB; Cantonese), directed by Andy Lo.

Review | Film review: Happiness – Kara Wai, Carlos Chan bond in one of best Hong Kong films of 2016

No angel, a young man’s life changes when he takes an elderly stranger’s spare room and soon finds himself caring for her as she develops dementia. What follows is a poignant and heart-warming story

4 stars

Kara Wai Ying-hung has a fighting chance to add to her two best-actress wins at the Hong Kong Film Awards with this exquisite dramedy, infused with heart and humour. Playing like a grungier version of Ann Hui On-wah’s A Simple Life, about a man who performs filial duties to his elderly housekeeper, Happiness derives much joy and sorrow from the unlikely bond between a homeless youth and the solitary landlady who takes him in.

After his Chinese mother dies, the temperamental Yuk (Carlos Chan Ka-lok) moves back to Hong Kong to look for the father who abandoned them both years ago. The young man is no angel himself – he loses his cooking job in a tantrum, and is not above stealing money from the girl he sleeps with (and cruelly kicks out) – but it all changes when he begins to live under one roof with Aunt Fanny (Wai), a random stranger with a room to spare.

What follows is a heart-warming drama about learning our responsibilities to other people. As Yuk begins to work in a community centre, which provides him with a nominal love interest (Cya Liu Yase) and a chauvinist buddy (Louis Cheung Kai-chung) to bounce off, the character’s transformation from a selfish, heartless p***k to the primary carer of Aunt Fanny – soon diagnosed with dementia – feels at once authentic and very poignant.

Kara Wai and Carlos Chan in Happiness.
An experienced scriptwriter who counts Crazy N’ the City (2005) and My Name Is Fame (2006) among his best screenplays, Andy Lo Yiu-fai stumbled with his first directing gig in 2013 – the segment “Can’t Stop the Killing” in the omnibus feature Hardcore Comedy – but has apparently saved his best for this full-length feature debut. Bittersweet without resorting to an easy tear, Happiness is easily one of 2016’s best Hong Kong films.

Happiness opens on September 8

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